As part of our Young Athlete series, AW spoke with Laviai Nielsen who is a talented 400m runner on the rise
Laviai Nielsen was first attracted to athletics when her school became involved in campaigns during the London 2012 bidding period and she has gone on to compete in the 4x400m at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene last year.
The 18-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough year in 2014, running a PB of 53.86 over 400m at the Loughborough International to earn selection for the relay team for Eugene. The time also placed her fourth in the UK under-20 rankings for the year.
When speaking about the World Juniors, it is clear that pulling on the GB kit was a special moment for the Enfield & Haringey athlete.
“World Juniors is something I will never forget and I can’t put it into words,” she says. “I hadn’t been aiming for it during winter training, so to be selected was a dream come true, as it was to run at Hayward Field.
“It was my first international competition so I took away so many meaningful lessons which will hopefully help me to succeed in the future and it inspired me to keep working hard to experience something like that again.”
“World Juniors is something I will never forget and I can’t put it into words”
Laviai puts last year’s improvement down to finding her best event and enjoying her training.
“I was surprised to run sub-54,” she explains. “However, I was starting to get used to the 400m, having stepped down to it, so I was very keen to improve my speed and endurance over the year and I’m still doing that this year.
“It’s important to enjoy the training you do, and I am completely in love with training and I’m always willing to push myself,” she adds.
Laviai began being coached by Frank Adams in the summer of 2013, having decided to focus on sprinting and is quick to credit her coach and training environment.
“It’s important to enjoy the training you do, and I am completely in love with training and I’m always willing to push myself”
“Frank has been an absolutely fantastic and incredible coach to me. I settled into the training really well and fell in love with the 400m, even though the training can get really tough. I have great training partners who push me on every day and I push them on as much as I can. It’s a great setting for me and one that I’m really comfortable with.”
One of those training partners is her twin sister, Lina. “We’re so close to one another and we’re always motivating each other,” she says.
Having started studying geography at King’s College, London, in September, Laviai is enjoying the balance between academics and athletics.
She is targeting a spot at the European Junior Championships in Sweden this summer. “It’s my last junior year, so I want to get the most out of it as I can,” says the ambitious teenager.
You can find further performance stats on Laviai on Power of 10 here.
» Support young athletes via the Ron Pickering Memorial Fund, see rpmf.org.uk